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California: City May Renew Traffic Cameras at Safe Intersection
Hawthorne, California installed red light cameras at locations with no history of red light running accidents.

Google Maps photo, Rosecrans and Hindry
The city council in Hawthorne, California later today will consider whether to renew its contract for operating red light cameras. Local activists are urging members to drop the program, citing evidence that it is not possible for photo enforcement to reduce the number of accidents in the city.

Hawthorne allowed Redflex Traffic Systems, an Australian company, to set up and operate cameras at four locations in 2004. At the time, city officials insisted the tickets, now worth $480 each, would reduce the number of collisions related to red light running at those locations. As Safer Streets LA Executive Director Jay Beeber discovered, the intersections selected for the program had no red light running collision problem.

"There is no reason for the cameras as they haven't improved safety," Beeber wrote. "There's no improvement possible when you start with zero or one accident per year... This program is all about revenue generation and not safety."

Beeber used the California Highway Patrol's Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System to examine nine years' worth of accident records. At Hawthorne Boulevard and El Segundo Boulevard, there were no red-light related collisions in 2003. In 2005, the first full year after camera installation, there was 1 red light related collision. The overall number of accidents of all types increased from 6 to 8.

At Hawthorne Boulevard and Imperial Highway, there were no red light related collisions in 2003. In 2005, there were 2. Overall accidents increased from 13 in the year before cameras to 17 in the year after.

At Imperial Highway and Freeman Avenue, there were 2 red light related accidents in 2003, and 1 in 2005. The total number of collisions increased from 3 to 8.

At Rosecrans and Hindry Avenue, there were no red light related accidents in 2000, 2001 or 2003. There also were none in 2005, after cameras were installed, but one incident was recorded in 2007 and another in 2009. Despite this being one of the safest locations, Redflex selected it as one of the highest-volume intersections in the city, with 58,000 vehicles passing through daily, on average. It also had the shortest yellow time allowed under federal law, at just 3.0 seconds. These factors paid off with 3573 tickets, worth over $1.2 million, in its first seven months of operation. The intersection continues to focus on issuing rolling right turn tickets for people who misjudge the short, 3 second yellow turn arrow.

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